• Deborah MB

"Atomic Habits" that will change you

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones is James Clear’s bestselling guide to modify one’s behaviour. It is easy to see the hype, as it responds to a particularly pressing fear expanding in these changing times: how to do things differently when we are already so used to our own ways.

It is a well-researched book which, to all those accustomed to the usual pseudo-science, comes as a welcome surprise. It is also an easy read, very adequate for modern patterns of information consumption: the language is simple; the paragraphs and chapters kept short; incremented repetition of the main points build up its case; abundant examples illustrate each concept. It is also highly reliant on personal experience, the better for the readers to accept the promised ease of implementation.

The end, however, shows a marked difference. The last chapters, once the habits have (supposedly) been changed, are weaker, somewhat harried. The material is, here, presented more densely, less clearly. It gives the impression that the author is less certain about what he means to convey, as though he needs either more research, or a clearer sense of his ideas.

A comfortable, and comforting, book to empower its audience: whether by their dreaming they will act upon it, or by their actual use of its techniques. An easy volume to follow, approachable and unthreatening.

Who would enjoy this

Atomic Habits has already proven itself a popular choice with a wide range of readers. Mostly, these comprise people with an interest in self-development, as well as those who have been shaken by the economy and are looking for new ways to handle their affairs.

This book is particularly appealing for people who want to become “go-getters”, yet have never really got that competitive drive.

Who should give this a pass

It is difficult to explain why somebody may not enjoy Atomic Habits, but it is certainly not the sort of tome for people who are already high performers or extremely competitive. Such audience may be attracted to the book, but in trying to implement the techniques immediately, they would become quickly frustrated by them.

Additionally, this is not a volume for those looking for in-depth behaviour changing psychology. This is more of a manual, less of an explanation, work.

Conclusions and suggestions

Despite my misgivings regarding competitive readers, and the lack of polish to the last sections of the book, I would widely recommend Atomic Habits both for its content as for its delivery. Firstly, because it responds to a very present and prevalent need to change the way people do things. The gap is there, and clear manuals such as this are good news.

Secondly, because Mr Clear is a smart writer. He knows he is not an excellent writer, but he knows his strengths. His popularity was built thanks to his blog, and thus he has wisely transferred its format to book-length. This suits his audience, mostly consumers of bite-sized media content, with neither time nor inclination to read long and detailed texts.

As a result, I would like to draw the attention of future writers of similar works to the following:

· Present your ideas as your audience would best assimilate them. Decide whether you are presenting for academia, or the wider public, and speak to that level.

· Recognise the needs of the public, and meet them.

· Make sure your research is solid, and available throughout the volume. It is all right to keep it in the appendix so long it is clearly indicated – think Wikipedia.

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